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New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Oscar Award-Winning Producer/Manager Michael Sugar

December 7, 2021

Tova Laiter (left) with Michael Sugar (right)

New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with PRODUCER/ MANAGER MICHAEL SUGAR. Sugar produced the feature film, Spotlight (starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo) which won the Oscar for “Best Picture.” Sugar is also CEO and Founder of Sugar23, a management and production company with a multi-year deal with Netflix.

Previously a partner for many years at Anonymous Content, Sugar has produced a number of acclaimed series and features, including The Laundromat, Dickinson, Maniac, I Am The Night, The Report, The OA, The Knick and the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

Sugar recalled his background and his early decision to enter into the entertainment industry, He then recalls his introduction into the world of management “I was having lunch with a friend who was an agent at William Morris and he said, ‘You should be a manager. It's a great way to learn the business and to meet the right folks.’”

Michael Sugar was Producer for the Oscar-Winning film Spotlight (2015)

Laiter then asked Sugar about his lengthy career as a manager and producer at the highly acclaimed production company, Anonymous Content. Sugar describes how he entered the company, “In the spring of 2005 I signed a director who had done a film and they alerted Steve Golan, who was the founder and CEO of Anonymous Content. He called me up and said, ‘come over,’ and I said to myself, I don't want to work anywhere. I wanted to be on my own. But he gave me this incredible pitch about this platform that he was building there, and I knew it was going to be an easier place for me to grow my business.”

Following his background, Sugar and Laiter discussed the role of a good manager. Sugar offered his own perspective of the role as, “a person in an artist's life who is directional--who is meant to bring out the best opportunities across their myriads of whims, dreams, and hopes. I look at my job and it changes on a daily basis, in terms of the specificity in going into micro issues and how to macro issues.” Relating the idea of a manager to the business realm, Sugar notes, “If I look at it like Procter and Gamble, each brand has its own manager, right? Each artist has multiple brands, the brand of writing, the brand of directing, the brand of film, television, playwriting, or writing books. My job is to be as much of an expert as I can be across all of them, and make sure that everybody is operating.”

Michael Sugar was Executive Producer for the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why

When Laiter and Sugar pivoted the conversation toward Sugar’s newest startup, X4Y, which is a subsidiary of Sugar23. Sugar describes the company as a tech lab platform designed to link creators and brands to pay for their creatives. The reason behind the company, according to Sugar, was because he realized that for a “commercial director'' to be discovered and to get paid they need to make a commercial that then goes on the shelf. And I remember thinking to myself how inefficient this is--that people are spending their money, making very creative commercials, without the benefit of a creative agency buying it.

Creators that make content that is not brand specific, have the opportunity through X4Y to have their work paid for by companies that express interest in this content at a lower expense than tailored content. According to Sugar, creators can “make a commercial for health and wellness and let any of the thousands of health and wellness companies that would love to have a piece of commercial content, or even a shortfilm, to put the content up on Instagram, or Snapchat, or Twitter. Let them pay you for it because they can. So this is designed to take away the need for permission to create.”

Michael Sugar is the founder of X4Y, a new digital marketplace that links content creators with brands

A student then asked Sugar about the differences between attracting clients now versus 10 years ago. Sugar noted that nowadays “the difference is that they/we see it as a media canvas, such as We're looking at how does an audio podcast become a TV show, become a consumer product, become a book? And so that's why we built this ecosystem to service all of those things because you just never know the best way to adapt something. We want to help them, and we're seeing a lot of innovation on the brand side.”

Michael Sugar was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, two Television Academy Honors, two AFI awards, and two Peabody Awards. You can catch his other work in his newly launched X4Y, a marketplace for creators to sell their work and be discovered by brands worldwide.

New York Film Academy would like to thank Michael Sugar for sharing his time and background with NYFA students and alumni.

Watch the full conversation below:

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